What I said was considered “scurrilous,” because American Catholics have swallowed the lie that it’s shameful to be a victim. That being a victim means you, the victim, are shameful and dirty. And a victim of sexual violence is considered especially dirty. They’re not supposed to talk about it. Think of what has been done to the thousands of male and female victims of clerical sexual abuse. Think of how they were punished for speaking out. To be a victim of sexual violence has been treated as more shameful than being a perpetrator.
If you’ve been a victim of sexual violence, you know how desperately people want to dismiss it, and to blame you, and to tell you you’re guilty. It is one of those odious crimes where the victim is considered to bear the guilt. You shouldn’t have worn that skirt or gone to that party, when I can name many people who wore short skirts and went to parties and didn’t get assaulted like you. You shouldn’t have been drinking, at that drinking establishment where everybody else was drinking and went home without being raped. You shouldn’t have married him if you were worried about his temper. You shouldn’t have allowed yourself to be alone in the house or car with him. You led him on, when you were a child or a toddler and didn’t even know what sex was. You should have told a grown-up, when a grown-up tied a rope around your neck and threatened to strangle you if you moved or spoke. You should have gone to the police, when a policeman did this to you. Whatever you do, don’t talk about it. That’s disgusting and we don’t want to hear about it. You’re damaged goods.
These are the kinds of thing people say.
And there is Our Lord on the cross, broken, destroyed, naked, lungs filling with fluid, blood pouring off the crown of thorns and blinding Him, one shoulder ripped open exposing the bone, so thirsty His tongue sticks to His palate, shivering from blood loss even though the desert sun is burning Him, suffocating before the dehydration and sepsis have a chance to get Him. He, too, is damaged goods.
Because I am a Christian. I understand that nothing that is done to a person can make them shameful. Only what a person does can do that. Our choices and our actions can be sinful. The circumstances where life leaves us, and what people do when we’re vulnerable, are not our sins.
I am a Christian, and I believe that the altar server who never had a thing happen to him and served faithfully until he was old enough to go to the seminary, is no more innocent in the eyes of God than the altar server who was molested at his first Mass and suffered PTSD so terrible he could never go into a church again. I believe that the female penitent who had her breast groped in the confessional and had panic attacks too severe to allow her to ever go back to confession, is no more shameful in the eyes of God than the female penitent who went to confession every week of her life and never had anything unpleasant happen. I believe that the nun who was raped and sent away from the convent in an agony of flashbacks and depression is as innocent as the nun who was spared and remained. The woman who was trafficked from the time she was sold as a teenager until she jumped out a window to escape any further abuse is as pure as the pious church lady who went to her grave, physically still a virgin.
I believe that when the Father looks at an abused person, He sees His own Son, and loves that person as He loves His Son, and draws all of that agony through the Passion of Christ up into the life of the Trinity. I believe we will see the abuse victims who were so despised in their lifetimes one with Christ and sitting at the Father’s right hand.
Man judges by appearance, and finds victims disgusting. God sees the heart and finds them innocent.
There’s nothing scurrilous, let alone blasphemous, about that.
I warned you that this Lent, Steel Magnificat is praying for and with victims. So far I’ve been faithful to that, though we’re only a few days in. I plan to stay the course. I make no apology for professing a God Who stands with us instead of our abusers.
I am not ashamed of the Gospel.
(image via wikimedia commons)